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Tug of War for CADWorx customers

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Concurrently with the CADWorx University User Conference sponsored by Intergraph, Autodesk announced the Autodesk Plant Conversion Program for CADWorx customers. The program “is designed to help users of Intergraph CADWorx software transition to the benefits of the Autodesk Plant Design Suite 2011, a new software suite for plant designers that offers plant design and whole-project review capabilities in a single integrated package,” according to the press release.


CADWorx is built on AutoCAD. CADWorx users who want to transition to the Autodesk Plant Design Suite will get a 6-step project start-up tool kit when they purchase a license to the Suite. The kit provides new project templates, migration tools, and reference materials to help simplify the conversion of legacy CADWorx specs and catalogs.


Autodesk’s Robert Shear, director of plant industry marketing, Autodesk AEC Solutions, said that the purpose of the conversion program is twofold – 1) if you want to convert to a new product you want to evaluate the capabilities, usability and productivity of a new product ahead of time, and you can download the Autodesk Plant Design Suite for free and try it out, and 2) users have invested in creating specifications for certain types of projects with specific content such as pipes, valves, etc. and that CADWorx users think that Autodesk has a “long term” roadmap.


The conversion promises to be usable for converters – quickly, which is not something one generally associates with 3D plant offerings. Plant design projects generally encompass a large number of AutoCAD users, who can transition from AutoCAD to other AutoCAD-based products without much of a learning curve.


Shear said (after attending CADWorx University) there is “long time loyalty among CADWorx customers” and believes CADWorx users are “looking for an alternative.” He suggests that these customers are concerned about the future of the resellers they deal with and about the frequency of updates and product support.


Executive vice president, Business Development, Intergraph Process Power & Marine, Patrick Holcomb, echoed this concern in saying that some users had feared that Intergraph might shut down CADWorx and maybe force upgrade to SmartPlant 3D or something else. “It was shocking – whether we liked it or not, we had a question mark in the audience starting the event; by the end of it, that was no longer an issue,” said Holcomb.

Customers wanted to know how Intergraph would make CADWorx successful. Already, CADWorx is successful, the company reports, with September being the biggest month they have had. In addition, at the conference they unveiled publicly CADWorx 2011 beta, which will be probably ready to release sometime in the next month.


Intergraph is clearly excited about the product line (see Getting Smart About 3D Plant Design with 3D CADWorx, GISWeekly, October 11, 2010) and have no plans of subsuming it or letting it go. Intergraph’s SmartPlant 3D is a behemoth plant design system that serves its purpose for large projects, whereas CADWorx and the other COADE acquisitions serve an entry level plant design market, addressing smaller projects, of which there are many.


Autodesk likens this scenario to Bentley’s acquisition of Rebis some years ago and their subsequent entry-level product, AutoPlant. This is another customer base that Autodesk offers a conversion plan to. When Bentley acquired Rebis, Autodesk did not at the time have a competing plant design software offering.


It is true that Intergraph has served larger projects very well, and has not focused on solutions for smaller projects. This is a new customer base for them. But my guess is that may be changing and broadening with the acquisition of Intergraph by Hexagon AB as well as customer requirements, which reflect the need for applications for projects such as brownfield projects.


In a recent interview with CEO Hexagon (soon to be owner of Intergraph), Ole Rollén, he suggested that CAD systems may be in their future again, “What we need to do is to deliver good application software and good solutions to the professionals….we have certain markets where I can see the need for CAD systems, going forward, but that’s more construction-related. You should be able to download a 3D model of a building, for example, and download that into your measurement device that will guide you where to put the air conditioning, spotlights, cabling in walls, etc. and these are technologies we are developing.”


Rollén also said: “Plant is probably our single largest application within the Hexagon group.” It stands to reason that the company would want to invest in as many aspects of plant design as it can to serve an existing and possibly growing customer base.

Shear said the cost of a license of the Autodesk Plant Design Suite is “roughly the same” as that of a license of CADWorx. But what Autodesk has going for it, in addition to offering 3D plant design, P&ID and basic AutoCAD in the Autodesk Plant Design Suite, is Navisworks, which unlocks legacy 3D data. 

So there you have it. Will CADWorx users want to make the switch from a product they have been happy with up until now…is this an offer they can’t refuse?

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